International Respect for Chickens Day

Today, Star Wars fan and punsters are repeating “May the Forth” be with you. I’ll add “May you go Forth with kindness for chickens.” For today is also International Respect for Chickens Day, a project launched by United Poultry Concerns.

chicken on the go at Pasado'sI’ve met many people who tell me they’ve cut back on red meat or switched from beef to chicken. Whether for health or ethics, this isn’t a good strategy. Chickens are one of the most abused animals on the planet–from the eggs we eat to the way their tiny bodies are stressed in the process of “raising” them for meat.

I’m against eating any animals, but what strikes me as odd about switching from beef to chicken is that because chickens are small, so many more lives are lost to harvest the same quantities of meat.

Here are some facts about chickens that show how wonderful they are and why they shouldn’t become a meal:

Hens are terrific mothers – Hens lay a clutch of eggs and care for them by keeping them warm under their bodies and carefully turning them over several times a day. When the checks hatch, hens protect their young and hide them under their wings when predators are around.

Roosters are great protectors – Roosters watch over their flocks, alert hens to danger, and will fight off predators. If roosters find food, they will call their families over to share the treat.a hen in Hawaii

Chickens are smart – They communicate, they can count, they express their feelings, they feel joy, pain and sorrow. They will help other animals, and if given the chance, are wonderful members of a family. They are as social and individual as any dog or cat.

I heard about a chicken who adopted a duck egg. She took care of the egg, just as she did with the other eggs she laid. When the duckling hatched, she walked him over to water, so he could swim. She loved and cared for that duck, and she knew he wasn’t a chick.

Nine billion chickens are killed for food every year in the US alone–and they are exempt from animal cruelty laws.

What to do?

  • Please don’t eat chickens or their eggs. There are so many alternatives like Beyond Chicken, Ener-G Egg Replacer. I wrote about egg substitutes earlier on this blog. And UPC has a wealth of chicken-free recipes too.
  • Contact your federal and state senators and urge them to ban debeaking and battery cages, and to include poultry under the Federal Humane Methods of Slaughter Act.
  • Tell your friends and family about how wonderful chickens are and that they shouldn’t be eaten.

May is International Respect for Chickens Month, so let’s keep the momentum and spread the word about these wonderful animals who are so mistreated.

The origin of my compassion

a younger jeanAre people innately compassionate? I’d like to think so, but I’m really not sure. All I can do is speak for myself.

I had my first taste of vegetarianism in the womb. No really. My mom decided that a plant-based diet would be the best thing for my development. She’s always cooked healthy meals, and excluding meat made sense to her. My mom’s a vegan now, but in the 1970s, people told her that meat was good for us. That growing children needed it. So with reluctance, she served small portions of meat every now and then. She’s never cooked a roast or chicken. Performing autopsies in the kitchen didn’t interest her.

At the age of three, I was happy and oblivious to most things. I was learning to read, and interested in books, dolls, cars, and my trike. Animal rights wasn’t something I even knew about.

My grandparents served me chicken one day, and unlike beef or pork, I made the connection. “This is chicken.” I said, happy to share my newfound knowledge of the world. “It used to have feathers. It used to have a beak. It used to have feet, and it used to walk around.”Chicken

Ding! A light went off in my head. “I’m not hungry anymore.” I pushed the plate away.

I don’t remember that incident, but my mother did. It was profound. I didn’t want to eat animals. For a while, people could trick me by calling something “meat” instead of “fish” or “chicken.” But in a few more years, I gave it all up.

I’ve heard other stories and I think a lot of kids are initially uneasy about eating animals. But we’re talked into it by grown-ups–the people we trust (or have to obey). Soon, we don’t think about it and we get desensitized to it. But it’s not wrong to feel your conscience tugging at your heart. It’s good to question our choices.

Do you remember making the connection between animals and meat? When was it?